Guest Blogger: Noel Yeatts, Vice President of World Help
On my way home from vacation this summer I found myself in a hotel room watching a documentary that I had already seen. In fact, this may have been the third time I had watched it. You could say I am a little obsessed. You see, the documentary Blackfish rocked my world.
Growing up, my family lived in San Diego and we had annual passes to Sea World. I loved Shamu the killer whale, I knew all of the shows, memorized the songs, waited anxiously to be splashed and secretly hoped to be the one child in the audience they picked to receive a big kiss from Shamu. But you know how that works … they always pick the cutest kid. Let’s just say these were not my best years. I was a little on the chunky side and had a wannabe Dorothy Hamill haircut. Trust me, it was not a good look. So, I never was picked.
But that did not diminish my love for Sea World, so I kept coming back.
The first time I saw Blackfish, a documentary that suggests the negative effects of killer whales in captivity, I did not know what to do with my roller coaster of emotions. I didn’t know what to believe. My heart would love to keep those childhood memories untainted but my head tells me better.
The documentary has played endlessly on CNN since its release in 2013. Sea World has pushed back relentlessly publishing open letters in newspapers and producing commercials defending their fair treatment of the animals.
Here is an interesting number … 59. That is the total number of killer whales globally held in captivity.
And the world is outraged.
About three years ago I met Blanca in the hills of Guatemala in a remote area that help rarely reaches. After hours of driving through rocky roads, rough terrain, and a hike up a hill, we found Blanca in a small mud hut with her parents and two siblings. They had little food and no clean water source. Their only income was what small amount her father made selling firewood. This was a family living in extreme poverty.
Blanca was skin and bones. She was severely malnourished and was quite possibly on the verge of death.
Here is another number … 16,000. That is the estimated number of children under the age of 5 that will die today from the effects of extreme poverty. So by the time you finish reading this post 60 children will have died.
So 59 whales get a documentary that plays over and over on a major news network. They get legal teams, dedicated fans and advocates speaking out on their behalf. And because of this support, things begin to change.
Regardless of which side you believe, there is no denying that the treatment of these animals will be forever improved. The scrutiny alone will ensure their safety in the future. And while the mistreatment of animals sickens me, what outrages me even more is the suffering of innocent children.
Most deaths from extreme poverty are entirely preventable. But, these children have no legal teams, no documentaries playing over and over again on a major news source, few resources, and little hope.
I can’t help but wonder about the number of children that could be rescued, if they were shown the same attention as 59 killer whales.
The day I met Blanca changed my life. I was able to participate in her rescue story, and months later the transformation was incredible. She was a different child – healthy, laughing and playing like any other little girl. We captured her story in a short documentary and started telling it across the country. And guess what … things started to change. People got involved and lives were saved.
So, here is the number I really want you to remember … 200. That is the number of children that together with the Leading and Loving It community, we have committed to helping rescue – children just like Blanca. That is 200 lives that will be saved and forever changed.
Sometimes I think of Blanca’s mother, who, like so many mothers around the world, simply did not have the resources or support to care for her children. She was desperate. Helpless. Being unable to save her own daughter from the effects of malnutrition, dirty water, and the despair of poverty was never her choice.
But it’s stories like hers that have allowed me to see that I do have a choice—I can choose to sit back and ignore the suffering and injustices happening every day all around the world, or I can choose to live my life awake – awake enough to make a difference.
You see, my faith claims to care about the suffering, the sick, the wounded, the brokenhearted and the hopeless. My faith stands for justice. But my faith also requires me to act … to be the hope to those who have none.
Will you be the hope? What step will you take TODAY to be hope to someone in extreme poverty?